The Everglades National Park is every outdoor enthusiast’s paradise! It’s an adventurous place where miles and miles of walking trails, biking trails, alligators, turtles, snakes, fish, crocodiles, and hundreds of other species co-exist. If you’re not at all outdoorsy, this isn’t the place for you. But, I promise you it’s one of a kind–literally! Now I haven’t seen every corner of the park (probably no one has), but I’ve spent a lot of there–thanks to my nature-loving boyfriend! So without further ado… here’s a quick run through of what to expect at Everglades National Park.
One of the most popular areas of the Everglades is Shark Valley, located to the far west of the park. I, personally, find this spot a little overrated compared to the main areas of the park further south. And despite its name, there aren’t actually sharks lurking in the shallow marshlands–but they are nearby, in Shark River and Little Black River. However, you will find many, many alligators, turtles, birds, and white-tailed deer!
Most visitors to Shark Valley will either catch the educational trolley ride around its 15 mile loop, or explore it on their own by bicycle! If you’re more into ecology and plant species, then you’ll definitely enjoy the tour. Otherwise, I’d skip it. Towards the halfway point of the loop, you’ll get to climb up the 45-ft high observation deck to get a better view of the park!
Main Entrance, Everglades National Park
There are 3 separate entrances to the Everglades, though they aren’t directly connected! We always visited the park through the main entrance in Homestead, because Nate says that’s where all snakes are…*major eye roll*. But, honestly I can’t complain because it’s my favorite area of the park too. There’s so many trails to go down and so much natural beauty. No, it’s not the beach that everyone usually comes to Miami to see. But, it’s beautiful and unspoiled.
Pro tip: Always have bug spray handy. The mosquitos are no joke during the muggy summer months.
A few words about the infamous Burmese Pythons:
These snakes are a highly invasive species. Meaning, they feed on and largely effect the native species that try to thrive in the Everglades. No, they’re not venomous… but, you probably don’t want to mess with them! Technically, if you see one of these bad boys hangin’ around, you’re supposed to report it to park officials so they can safely remove it. Despite what some nature-enthusiasts say…they really do harm many native species in the area and should be properly removed if found.
During one of our trips, Nate found this guy making his way across the road and we decided to report it. However, Nate isn’t a fan of having snakes “discarded” so, instead, we had it brought to a nearby, privately-owned rehabilitation center for educational purposes.
Spending a day in the Everglades is definitely something that should be on everyone’s bucket list—those who enjoy the great outdoors, that is! Although we’ve spent a lot of time there already, there’s still so much more we haven’t seen. What’s great about this place is that there is such a variety of people who go there. Whether it’s just for the day to go on a hike with the family, couples going on a bike ride along the trails, or people like my boyfriend on the hunt (or search… obviously not to actually hunt) for the beautiful creatures living in this great, big national park!
Also, one of the best perks of it being such a large park: it’s drivable . So, instead of walking a thousand miles in 90% humidity, you can always hop back in your car in between trails for some much needed rest and cool A/C!
Tips for visiting the Everglades
- Depending how far down the trails you plan to go, I suggest wearing jeans or long pants (spandex athletic pants will do) since stray branches/vines could scratch or poke at your legs as you walk by. Plus, it’s just an extra layer to help protect your legs from mosquitos.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, or rain boots during after rainy days. During the rainy season, many of the trails will flood a little bit.
- Bug spray is a MUST if you’re a mosquito magnet, like myself.
- Bring a bag with you down the trails if you plan to go a couple miles. You’ll want to pack plenty of water, snacks, and (again!) bug spray.